US Border Patrol Agent Charged With Murder for Firing Across Border Into Mexico and Killing Teen

José Antonio Elena Rodríguez
YouTube screenshot

Action Aided by Pressure From Arizona Republic Probe

"It was an indictment that many never imagined would be brought down: a U.S. Border Patrol agent charged with second-degree murder for firing across the border into Mexico and killing a teenager," Rob O'Dell reported Monday for the Arizona Republic.

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Investigations by the Republic, the story said, deserve part of the credit.

"Josiah Heyman, the director of the Center for Interamerican and Border Studies at the University of Texas-El Paso, has studied the border for 30 years. He said he didn't believe the agent, Lonnie Swartz [,] would ever be indicted," O'Dell continued.

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" 'I feel like people sort of take it for granted that they (the agents) are protecting country and it's a very dangerous job,' he said. "I didn't expect it to happen … it definitely sends a message.'

"Experts said the difference in the Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez case was an egregious set of facts and a sympathetic child victim who had no ties to drug dealing.

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"On Oct. 10, 2012, the agent emptied his .40-caliber pistol through the slats in the border fence into Mexico, hitting the teenager 10 times in the back and head, leaving him face-down in a pool of his own blood, according to court documents. The Border Patrol said he was throwing rocks; witnesses said he was just walking down the street.

"Relentless pressure from advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and other border advocacy organizations, along with investigations by the press[,] changed the way people talk about Border Patrol use-of-force cases, experts said. Although it took three years, that pressure created an atmosphere that finally led to an indictment.

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"In late-2013, an Arizona Republic investigation found Border Patrol agents who use deadly force face few, if any, public repercussions, even in cases in which the justification for the shooting seemed dubious. Since 2005, on-duty Border Patrol agents and Customs officers have killed at least 52 people, including at least 15 Americans, according The Republic's database of Border Patrol killings.

"These deaths, all but a handful of which occurred along or near the Southwest border, vary from strongly justifiable to highly questionable. None of the agents in the first 46 of the killings faced any kind of discipline from the Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection confirmed last summer. This was even in cases where agents shot unarmed teens in the back. . . ."

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O'Dell also wrote:

"Swartz is only the third agent to be indicted in a use-of-force death since 2005, the database shows. He is the first to be charged by the Justice Department. The other cases were brought by local prosecutors and the cases were either dismissed or ended in hung juries.

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"That appearance of a lack of accountability has been fed by a culture of secrecy about agents' use of deadly force, where the agents names are shielded from the public until they are forced to reveal them by the courts.

"The Republic joined a lawsuit to force the Border Patrol to release Swartz's name, which the judge compelled the Border Patrol to do last November.

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"[Customs and Border Protection] denied Freedom of Information Act requests from The Republic for the identities of agents involved in the shooting and for video from surveillance cameras on towers about 150 feet from where the boy was shot. Those cameras presumably recorded the incident.

"When The Republic began its investigation in 2013, the Border Patrol would not even release its use-of-force policy publicly. It also refused to release a report by the Police Executive Research Forum that criticized its agents' use of force. CBP also refused to modify its policy of lethal force involving rock-throwers. . . ."

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Astrid Galvan, Associated Press: Agent Indicted in 2012 Border Killing (Sept. 24)

Rob O'Dell, Arizona Republic, Phoenix: Border Patrol agent indicted 3 years after unarmed Mexican teen killed through fence (Sept. 24)

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FBI to Tabulate Police Shootings of Civilians

"The FBI will begin collecting and providing to the public more information about police shootings of civilians, FBI Director James Comey said Monday as the agency released annual data on crime nationwide," Eric Tucker reported for the Associated Press.

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"Federal law enforcement officials have acknowledged in the last year a lack of reliable data about how often police officers use force in the line of duty. Former Attorney General Eric Holder urged better record-keeping in a speech this year, calling it a matter of 'common sense,' and Comey has expressed frustration publicly with the absence of nationwide data following the Ferguson, Missouri shooting in August 2014. . . ."

Meanwhile, Anna Clark reported Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review, "At a time of high-profile shootings and rising crime in many cities, the journal Preventive Magazine has published a special issue on gun violence, bringing together leading scholars to illuminate a subject that is often overwhelmed by political rancor. Guest editors David Hemenway and Daniel Webster apply a public health perspective to a field in which policy decisions have life-and-death stakes.

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"Yet, in at least one case, an attempt to dislodge a myth had a curious boomerang effect: The media reverb interpreted the study's conclusions to mean the opposite of what researchers intended . . . ."

Clark also wrote, "A key takeaway, then, is that policing and regulations impact how the underground gun market functions. With more enforcement and the targeting of key intermediaries, researchers say, gun access to dangerous people can be even more constrained. In other words, regulations may not yet put a complete stop to illegal trade, but they do make it more difficult for guns to get in the wrong hands.

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"But much of the media pick-up boiled the study down to the notion that universal background checks on gun purchasers don't work — a conclusion two researchers from the study emphatically deny. . . ."

Editorial, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch: Martese Johnson report — Nothing to see here (Sept. 23)

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Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: A brutal month for children, in Cleveland and elsewhere

Why So Few of Color in Madison, Wis., Newsrooms?

"At the beginning of the month an upstart blog Madison365 published an op-ed by Rev. David Hart titled, 'If You're White, You're Alright,' which addressed the lack of minorities in Madison's newsrooms,"Miles Brown wrote Monday for the Badger Herald, an independent student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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In the American Society of News Editors' latest newsroom diversity survey [PDF], neither the Wisconsin State Journal nor the Capital Times reported any journalists of color. Of 16 Wisconsin papers reporting, only the Beloit Daily News and Kenosha News cited employees of color; the Journal Sentinel in Milwaukee did not report.

The U.S. Census reports that in 2014, Dane County, which includes Madison, was 6.2 percent Hispanic or Latino, 5.4 percent black or African American, 5.6 percent Asian and 0.5 percent American Indian and Alaska Native. Another 2.5 percent were two or more races.

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Brown continued, "Shortly after the article was published, Wisconsin State Journal columnist Chris Rickert responded via Facebook and dismissed Hart's article by listing a few names such as Ogechi Emechebe, a reporter and recent hire for the Capital Times, as well as three TV reporters and a TV morning anchor.

"Rickert said there are plenty of voices — of all colors — in the media. He added that in his opinion it doesn't matter that people of color have not regularly been hired at newspapers around the country because they have their own publications. . . ."

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Brown also wrote, "The Capital Times only has one person of color listed on [its] editorial staff. Even worse, Rickert's employer, The Wisconsin State Journal, has an editorial staff of 50 plus, yet has as many people of color on said staff as I have [Super Bowl] rings — none.

"Overall for the city of Madison's mainstream publications, only about 4 percent of full-time editorial staffs are minorities. This is considerably lower than the average of 13 percent nationwide.

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"Rickert can't just disregard this fact by saying there are smaller publications for minorities to write at, especially if they don't have the financial support and readership these larger publications have. . . ."

Ricket disputed Brown's characterization of his views. He told Journal-isms by email Thursday, "I said look at where people get their news, look at what Madison's black population is (about 7 percent, but that's weighted heavily toward kids, so adult population is probably smaller), look at the number of black reporters at Madison news outlets, and look at the coverage of race and the inclusion of black voices (opinion pieces and sources) by white-dominated news outlets.

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"Then ask: Does all that really justify Hart's vitriol? I don't think it does."

Paul Fanlund, editor of the Capital Times, said by email Wednesday, "I am traveling and unable to respond right away."

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In "Black Newspapers Struggle in Madison, WI," [video] a YouTube video posted by Dr. Charles A. Taylor in 2013, three people in Madison who attempted to start black newspapers complained about the lack of coverage of minority communities in the mainstream press, but said their papers failed for lack of advertising and lack of capital. [Updated Oct. 1]

Cristina Costantini, Fusion: It isn't easy being black in the Badger State

David Hart, Madison365: If You're White, You’re Alright

Madison365 staff: State Journal Columnist: Media Diverse Enough; Newspaper Diversity Doesn’t Matter (Sept. 10)

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Carson Says Media Manipulate African Americans

Ben Carson said erroneously Tuesday that the First Amendment protections enjoyed by the news media were granted in the belief that the press wouldn't "pick sides."

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The retired surgeon, seeking the Republican presidential nomination, also said African Americans have been manipulated by the media.

"Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson says traditional politicians have long maneuvered African-American voters for their own ends," Mark Hensch reported Tuesday for The Hill.

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" 'I think American blacks over the course of next year will begin to see that they've been manipulated very, very largely,' he told radio host Mike Gallagher (audio) on Tuesday.

" '[It is] people telling them what they're supposed to think and what they're supposed to say,' Carson said. 'I believe that is a dynamic that is in the process of changing.'

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" 'More and more, I'm finding, are thinking for themselves and what works for themselves and their communities,' added Carson, who is African-American.

"Carson argued the political establishment's control over any voting demographic stems largely from media bias.

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" 'I long for the day when the media realizes that the reason that they're the only business that is protected by the Constitution is because it is intended to be for the people,' he said.

" 'They weren't supposed to pick sides, the Democratic side or the Republican side,' Carson said. 'You are supposed to be able to trust them. They take advantage of low-information individuals and people who won't investigate things for themselves.' . . .

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Hensch also wrote, "Carson was responding to a YouGov poll from last week that found most blacks disagree with his opposition toward the idea of a Muslim presidential candidate.

"The poll found 66 percent of African-Americans say it is 'unfair' to oppose a political candidate solely because they are Muslim. . . ."

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James L. Baughman, a member of the University of Wisconsin-Madison journalism faculty, wrote about the history of newspaper partisanship on the university's website in 2011.

"You don't need to have a degree in history — or even to have paid much attention when you suffered the US history survey course as an undergraduate — to know that American newspapers were very partisan in the 19th century," Baughman wrote.

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" 'Editors,' wrote one historian, 'unabashedly shaped the news and their editorial comment to partisan purposes. They sought to convert the doubters, recover the wavering, and hold the committed.  'The power of the press,' one journalist candidly explained, 'consists not in its logic or eloquence, but in its ability to manufacture facts, or to give coloring to facts that have occurred.' . . ."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Jeb Bush, 'Free Stuff' and Black Folks

James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Politicians will say anything to get votes

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Lee A. Daniels, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Ben Carson's Ugly Hypocrisy

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: A Muslim presidential candidate is fine, most Republican presidential candidates say

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Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press: Detroit Today: Do we vote on candidates' policy or their religion?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Jeb Bush's "Free Stuff" Racial Insult Was a Shrewd Calculation

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Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: GOP can’t shed itself of racist appeals

Peniel E. Joseph, The Root: Jeb Bush’s Claim That Blacks Want 'Free Stuff' for Votes Insults Our Dignity and History of Struggle

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Don Lemon, BlackAmericaWeb.com: African Americans Could Benefit From Trump's Tax Plan

Sports Illustrated wire: Republican candidate Ben Carson tells NASCAR fans Confederate flag O.K.

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Doubts About Cooper-Lemon Team for Democratic Debate

"Anderson Cooper.

"Don Lemon.

"When you see those two names, what do you think of?" Joe Concha asked Tuesday for Mediaite.

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"Cooper: Best served in the field during big breaking news. Great work during Katrina (which took his career to another level). Love his stuff on 60 Minutes (the swimming with crocodiles package was compelling bordering on insanity). His 8:00 PM show is pretty good, fairly generic in format and the interviews solid.

"Lemon: Best served when doing cultural stories, primarily those involving race or celebrity indiscretions. In CNN's world, has grown the most in terms of brand awareness and name recognition in the past few years. Can serve as anchor, host or pundit (triple-threat). Best bet to get his own network daytime talk-show. Stirs controversy with commentary but not simply for the sake of stirring controversy. Agree or disagree, he appears to be authentic, isn’t PC and is honest in his convictions.

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"All of that said, you know what doesn't come to mind?

"Politics. . . ."

Concha also wrote, "The Democratic party finally gets around to debating on October 13th. The broadcast venue once again is CNN.

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"Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon will make up half the moderating team. Both are talented on a variety of levels, but not the first two guys you think of when it comes to political debate.

"Meanwhile, Jake Tapper is on the sidelines while a fourth moderator who sure would have been useful in the GOP debate suddenly appears for the Democratic version. . . ."

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CNN announced Monday that while Cooper will be the debate moderator, "Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash and CNN en Español Anchor Juan Carlos Lopez will ask additional questions, and Anchor Don Lemon will present questions to the candidates submitted through Facebook during the two-hour primetime debate. . . ."

National Action Network via NBC News: Reverend Al Sharpton Interviews Hillary Clinton on All New "PoliticsNation"

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Editor of Tribal Newspaper Fired for "Insubordination"

"Ms. Jode Rave Spotted Bear, who is, or was, the editor of the MHA Times newspaper on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota, posted the following on the MHA [Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara, also known as the Three Affiliated Tribes] Tribal Politics page on Facebook," Jay Daniels reported Wednesday for Roundhouse Talk:

"Jodi Rave Spotted Bear, September 28 at 6:33pm · Makoti, ND

" 'For all the people who encouraged me to write about the truth here at Fort Berthold, I just got fired today. MY last column is one of the trending stories on Indianz.com. Here are the four TAT [Three Affiliated Tribes] councilmen whose board reps fired me: chairman Mark Fox, Fred Fox, Randy Phelan, and Frank Grady. Here's the video of Rose Crow Flies High who delivered the news to me.'

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"Indianz.com posted an update on September 29, 2015 that Ms. [Rave Spotted Bear] has been fired by the MHA Times and her letter of termination indicated that the cause was insubordination.

"Ms. [Rave Spotted Bear] wrote in an article posted recently on MHA Times that she 'had been summoned to Tribal Council meetings twice — once, in a closed session and off the record — regarding an accurate story I (she) wrote about the tribal budget. The second time was on Sept. 2 in which I (she) was told to make a formal request for a media packet. Both instances felt like an ambush.'

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"On September 28, 2015, Indianz News posted an article written by Ms. Spotted Bear regarding a recent Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) decision in Hudson v. Great Plains Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs. The original article was published in the MHA Times last week and titled 'Interior Appeals Board Upholds Much Needed Changes to TAT Constitution.'

"In the full article posted on MHA Times, Ms. [Rave Spotted Bear] stated that 'the TAT Constitution, which leaves seven councilmen to engage in controlling, cavalier, power-drunk politics. The rest of us are left with an unsettling choice: Do we kiss the rings?' It seems that this statement was the last straw with the oversight board. . . ."

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Philadelphia Magazine Apologizes Again for a Cover

"Philadelphia has a majority-minority school district: 52 percent of its students are black, 19 percent are Hispanic and 14 percent are white," Emma Brown wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post.

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"That's why so many people found it jarring when Philadelphia magazine's October education issue featured a photograph of a group of white children.

"(In fact, one of the children is Latino and another South Asian, according to the magazine’s editors).

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"The text on the cover didn't help: 'How to get your kid a great education … without moving to the ‘burbs,' it reads.

"Coupled with the photo, plenty of people saw the cover package as a not-so-hard-to-break code that speaks to the segregation of both housing and schools: good schools are white schools, and white schools are in white neighborhoods.

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"The children in the Philly magazine cover shot are from Greenfield, a well-regarded K-8 school in Philadelphia's Center City. Though its white population is larger than average for Philadelphia — about 40 percent of its students are white — the school is still majority-minority.

"Tom McGrath, the editor of Philadelphia magazine, took to Facebook to apologize . . ."

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Philadelphia Magazine Editor Faces Critics at Forum (March 17, 2013)

Emerson College Tops List of Quality Journalism Schools

"Take a look at this list of quality schools that are focused on delivering an education in Journalism and that are successful at it, with graduates among the top earners after graduation," according to CollegeFactual.com.

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It also wrote, "College Factual has been chosen to provide its data-driven insights at the majors and fields of study level to power The USA TODAY College Guide 2016. The College Guide 2016 features capsule looks at 400 schools and be on newsstands in late August 2015. . . ."

Notably, historically black Howard University ranks No. 17, the only historically black college or university in the top 20.

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The list includes 1) Emerson College, 2) Northwestern University, 3) University of Texas at Austin, 4) Boston University, 5) University of Southern California.

6) University of Missouri-Columbia, 7) New York University, 8) Washington and Lee University, 9) Syracuse University, 10) American University.

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11) Northeastern University, 12) University of Wisconsin-Madison, 13) Indiana University-Bloomington, 14) Quinnipiac University, 15) George Washington University.

16) University of Colorado Boulder, 17) Howard University, 18) Rutgers University-New Brunswick, 19) Ithaca College, 20) University of Kansas.

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"Diamonds in the Dust" in the Negro Leagues

For "Diamonds in the Dust," a photo essay for The Undefeated on the ESPN website about the Negro Leagues, Gerry Melendez of ESPN photographed Howard Scott, 66, left, and Edward "Pap" McGowan, 68, watching a game in Antreville, S.C. "Both played in what they consider the best era of black baseball. McGowan started in the league in 1957 and played for 49 years. 'We were straight-out country boys,' he said. 'You just played wherever there were games.' McGowan says many great players lost their chance to play professionally because they had to work the cotton fields. 'Yeah, that's why I might have missed my chance,' he says." 

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Short Takes

"A half-dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus have urged the FCC [not] to eliminate the syndicated exclusivity and network nonduplication rules," John Eggerton reported Wednesday for Multichannel News. As African American broadcaster Pluria Marshall Jr. explained Tuesday in an essay for Broadcasting & Cable, "Under these rules, local television stations can turn to the FCC in certain limited circumstances to stop cable operators from bringing duplicative television programming from distant markets into local communities." He added that if cable companies can carry the same programming as the local station, "it diminishes the local stations' audiences and undercuts the revenues those stations rely upon to provide news and other local programming. . . ."

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National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry C. Alford, a syndicated columnist for the black press, is a veteran of multiple campaigns to quash regulations intended to improve air quality or fight climate change, Joby Warrick reported Monday for the Washington Post. "The National Black Chamber of Commerce, which acknowledges receiving strong financial backing from Exxon Mobil and other fossil-fuel interests, has specifically tailored its message to African American audiences, drawing anger from environmental and public health groups that say urban blacks would be among the biggest beneficiaries of tighter regulations. . . ."

"New Brunswick Today, a hyper-local based in New Jersey, is proving that not all innovation in local news these days is digital," Tara George reported Monday formediashift.org. "Charlie Kratovil and Sean Monahan initially launched their news operation in 2011 as a website, hoping to fill what they saw as a gap in local news coverage in the city that's home to Rutgers University. But in 2013 they decided to add a monthly print edition, bucking a trend in local journalism away from newsprint. The two also decided to try something else new — translating stories from English into Spanish in both their web and print editions. 'It’s been a huge hit. Huge,' says Kratovil . . ."

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"My mother is from Jalisco, Mexico and my father is from Oakland, California," Walter Thompson-Hernandez says in a story Sept. 24 by Jorge Rivas for Fusion headlined, "These are the beautiful, complex Blaxicans of Los Angeles." Thompson-Hernandez continues, "They met in South LA in the early 1980s and came of age in this community. . . ." Rivas also wrote, " 'The term Blaxican is really is an example of the reinvention of language that [exists] in the U.S,' said Thompson-Hernandez, now a researcher at the University of Southern California who studies the impacts of interracial mixing between African Americans and Latinos in South Los Angeles. . . ."

Beginning Saturday, Michel Martin "brings her unique brand of journalism back to the studio and to social media, as weekend host for All Things Considered." NPR announced on Tuesday. "She'll host All Things Considered on Saturdays and Sundays, joining weekday hosts Kelly McEvers, Audie Cornish, Ari Shapiro, and Robert Siegel, to bring afternoon audiences the information they need to put the week's news in context. . . ." In an appearance on Sunday's program, currently hosted by Arun Rath, Rath asked whether Martin would include the "Barbershop" feature from her previous show, "Tell Me More." "And maybe if you need a Hindu in the Barbershop, maybe you could give me a call sometime?" Rath said to laughter. Rath has told Journal-isms that his ethnic background is half South Asian Indian and half English. 

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Darnell Hunt, chair of the department of sociology at UCLA, and the head of its Ralph Bunche Center for African-American Studies, said Wednesday he is getting buy-in from the movie industry for his studies on its lack of diversity. "In fact, a number of them, a number of major studios and networks, have already signed on as financial sponsors of our study," Hunt told Charlayne Hunter-Gault for her year-long study of race on the "PBS NewsHour." "And we're really careful to diversify that group, because we want to maintain our independence and our objectivity as researchers. But, nonetheless, we think it's valuable to have them as stakeholders in the process, because they're likely to use the results. . . ." 

"New over-the-top distributors such as Amazon hold the promise of providing opportunities for producers of color to get their projects on air, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Spike Lee said," R. Thomas Umstead reported Wednesday for Multichannel News. Umstead also wrote, "Amazon Studios this December will release Lee's latest film, Chi-Raq, which sheds light on the serious and often overlooked issue of gun violence within Chicago's African-American community. 'That's the hope, but we still have to wait and see,' Lee said. 'Everybody else said no [to Chi-Raq] except Amazon. All it takes is one yes.' . . ."

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"Seven al-Jazeera journalists convicted in absentia on spurious terror-related charges in Egypt have begun the process of requesting a formal pardon from Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi," Oliver Laughland reported Tuesday for the Guardian. "The move comes just a week after two al-Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, were pardoned by Sisi following two years in prison. Their pardons now clear a legal pathway for the group of seven, which includes Australian reporter Peter Greste and two British correspondents, to see their convictions overturned. . . ."

"The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies and three other human rights groups, in calling on the government of Morocco to stop its harassment of journalists and human rights defenders," Yasmin El-Rifae reported Tuesday for the committee. "The statement was delivered during the general debate at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 22 and published online today. . . ."

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